Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bill Laswell & Axiom Records

I spent most of the 1990s on a heavy and extended Bill Laswell kick. In retrospect, my time of greatest interest, say 92 - 98, coincided with a period of creativity and productivity for him which continues to amaze...One of Laswell's primary outlets during this period was Axiom Records. From Wikipedia:
"Axiom was a record label founded by musician Bill Laswell in 1989, with the support of Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records. Axiom was an independent subdivision of Blackwell's Island Records, with Laswell being afforded a budget for a certain number of albums each year, basically of his own choosing. The freedom Blackwell gave Laswell gave rise to a number of studio albums and field recordings that otherwise would likely not have been made within the confines of a normal major label structure...In 1989, Chris Blackwell had sold Island Records, which became a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group - with Blackwell staying on as CEO. In 1997, Blackwell resigned from Polygram after struggling with what he saw as restrictive oversight of his management. Axiom was (at that moment) shuttered as well, with most of the catalog falling out of print since then..Under Island's watch Axiom released Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages and Henry Threadgill's Too Much Sugar for a Dime, as well as records by Laswell projects such as Praxis and Material. A series of stellar world releases also came out through Axiom, including Simon Shaheen's tribute to M.A. Wahab, Shankar's Soul Searcher and pristine field recordings of Gnawa musicians in Morocco, Mandinka & Fulani Music in the Gambia and the famed Master Musicians of Jajouka in the Rif Mountains of Morocco. The major label backing that Blackwell gave allowed Laswell to trek to these far out regions with modern equipment and make what are arguably the most pristine recordings of these ancient musics to date in their home environments."
This description of the label is not hyperbolic at all. Several of these records I consider Important-with-a-capital-I...Very, very few of the label's releases are in print which is such a shame. iTunes, emusic and Amazon's MP3 store would be perfect outlets for this material...such a drag.

Over the next few weeks I plan to use this site to get some of the Axiom records back out there. There are roughly 30 releases on Axiom and I will post in full the ones out of print with my usual one track from the ones still available...First post in a few days...I hope you enjoy this music as much as I have over the years.